God at work in the Church

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God is at work in the church in China

George and Tobia Veith, left and centre, visit with Denise Epp following one of the Veiths’ presentations on the church in China held at Rosthern Mennonite Church recently. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

A carving underscores the fact that the church in China is in God’s hands, say missionaries George and Tobia Veith. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

“This is about what God’s doing,” said George Veith. “We want all the glory to go to God.”

He was referring, during a series of four presentations hosted by Rosthern Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church Canada on April 10 and 11, to the vibrancy which he and his wife Tobia have witnessed in the Chinese church from their vantage point as Witness workers in Macau for the past 18 years.

Learning from each other

Charles Simard holds a timber wolf hide as he explains to the Partnership Circle participants in Manigotagan, Man., their relationship with the land along the eastern shores of Lake Winnipeg that has been their home for many generations. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

Members of Manigotagan Community Fellowship, Charles Simard, left, Chris Martin, Shirley Smith, Norman Meade, Dennis Sinclair and Danny Moneyas, host the spring Partnership Circles meeting on March 14, 2015. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

Manigotagan Community Fellowship prepared a feast of moose stew, caribou stew, smoked lynx meat, delicate slices of moose nose, smoked fish and fresh bannock for their visitors from Winnipeg. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

Charles Simard shows off a beaver pelt. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church of Canada’s indigenous bishop, reads from his Ojibway Bible at a Partnership Circles meeting in Manigotagan, Man., last month. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

Although less than a three-hour drive from Winnipeg, Manigotagan seemed a world away. This Metis community of about 200 lives in the dense forest along the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg. It abuts the much larger reserve community of Hollow Water (population 1,200) whose border has become more porous since the passing of Bill C-31 which returned treaty status to some of the Métis.

Western Christians need to ‘get out of the way’

Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church of Canada’s first national indigenous bishop, speaks at the annual Building Bridges event at Circle of Life Thunderbird House in Winnipeg on March 13, 2015. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

Mark MacDonald is convinced that “it is the time for something great to happen and that the best thing we can do is get up and wait. There is no stopping it.” But the Anglican Church of Canada’s first national indigenous bishop admits that the church has likely stood in the way of God’s work at times and it may need to step aside.

‘We weren’t on the same page’

Hague Mennonite Church has voted to leave Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, choosing, instead, to become an independent congregation. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

A stone cairn outside Hague Mennonite Church commemorates the congregation’s 100th anniversary, celebrated in 2003. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

“We have not left. Maybe the [area church] leadership has left, but we have stayed with the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.” With these words, Artur Esau, Hague Mennonite Church’s pastor, spoke of his congregation’s withdrawal from Mennonite Church Saskatchewan.

Mennonite Church Alberta ‘in the black’

Dancers perform to a song of praise at the opening of Mennonite Church Alberta’s 86th annual delegate sessions hosted by Edmonton Vietnamese Mennonite Church. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Vietnamese Mennonite Church in Edmonton may seem small, but it is a hosting powerhouse! On March 20 and 21, 2015, the congregation of about 70 adults and 23 youth welcomed pastors, delegates and visitors to the 86th annual session of Mennonite Church Alberta.

Keynote speaker Brian Quan, lead pastor of three congregations at Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, challenged the gathering about what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ, bound together by the Spirit of God for the common good.

Edmonton congregation seeks to be openly inclusive

At the pastors council meeting, First Mennonite Church called for prayer as a letter that will be sent to all Mennonite Church Alberta congregations was shared. The letter presents a motion passed on Feb. 8: “As a congregation, we ... would like to move toward becoming a publicly open and welcoming faith community for all people, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, abilities, socio-economic status, family composition, and for any other minority or marginalized individuals or groups.

‘Our truth has been discovered’

‘We wish it was over,’ says Wilma Derksen, who, along with her husband Cliff, waited 27 years to learn what happened to their daughter. ‘I waffle about a new trial.’ (Photo courtesy of Cliff and Wilma Derksen)

“God has given us a toolkit,” said Wilma Derksen. First it was forgiveness when Wilma and Cliff’s daughter Candace was murdered in 1984. Then it was learning to love when they learned that Mark Edward Grant was arrested and charged with her murder in 2007, and then truth and justice as they sat through his trial in 2011.

More on CoSA funding cuts

What is CoSA?

Mennonite Central Committee describes CoSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) as “a community-based reintegration program that holds federal inmates with histories of sexual offending accountable for the harm they have caused while supporting them through the reintegration back to community at the end of their sentences.” More information is available at http://mcccanada.ca/learn/more/circles-support-accountability-cosa

 

A healing bridge

It may not look like much, but the abandoned 90-hectare site of Kapyong Barracks is prime real estate in Winnipeg. It could also be a healing bridge, according to Steve Heinrichs, Mennonite Church Canada’s director of indigenous relations.

The former military base is currently at the centre of ongoing litigation between the federal government and seven first nation communities in Manitoba that want to transform it into an urban reserve.

Frank thoughts on future directions

A quantifiable angst hangs in the church air these days. Mennonite Church Canada is in decline. There are exceptions and bright spots, but the trend has long been unmistakable.

The numbers, whether in dollars or heads, are likely a bit smaller this year than last. Donations to MC Canada were down by about $38,000 for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2015. Costs were trimmed by about the same amount. That counts as good news.

Executive director Willard Metzger says of the numbers, “This is positive as we continue to navigate through this extended period of uncertainty.”

‘Be not afraid’

Peter Rempel, right, board chair of MC Manitoba, welcomes Pinawa Christian Fellowship into membership at the annual delegate sessions on Feb. 27 and 28, 2015. Ken and Willa Reddig and Lorna Hiebert, at left, are part of the Mennonite subset of the fellowship. In the 1960s, the government created Pinawa for workers to build and service a newly established nuclear research facility. Christians from a variety of backgrounds and traditions established homes in the community and, rather than forming many little denominational groupings, they formed one body called Pinawa Christian Fellowship in 1963 to convey a message of Christian unity. (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

Chuck Neufeld sings to Mennonite Church Manitoba delegates: ‘If you’re on the road to where you are going, you are already there in your heart, mind and soul. It will take all your strength.’ (Photo by Evelyn Rempel Petkau)

“Be not afraid“ was an apt theme for the 2015 annual delegate gathering of Mennonite Church Manitoba. Delegates were informed of a $234,647 deficit, the withdrawal of one their fellow member congregations (Plum Coulee Bergthaler Mennonite), an unknown future for camping ministry and scaled-down ministry programs.

“MC Manitoba had a difficult year this past year,” said Ken Warkentin, executive director, during the two-day event held on Feb. 27 and 28, 2015.

Unity has been broken

Tofield (Alta.) Mennonite Church.

In a letter dated Feb. 4, Tofield Mennonite Church notified the congregations of Mennonite Church Alberta that it had voted 94 percent in favour of withdrawing its membership from the area church. Congregational chair Brian Goerzen wrote that the congregation feels the basis for unity in the area church has been broken.

“We have come to understand that we view the Scriptures—the relevance, power, authority of the Scriptures themselves, and what they say about God, mankind, sin and salvation—very differently from the conference,” his letter stated, citing II Timothy 3:14-17.

‘Following Jesus today’

Delegates at Mennonite Church B.C.’s annual general meeting discuss future directions for the area church. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

Sarah Lowen of the now-closed Clearbrook Mennonite Church gives thanks for the support of MC B.C. to the small German-speaking congregation over the years. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

With a focus on being missional and staying vibrant, healthy and connected, delegates and friends of Mennonite Church British Columbia gathered for annual sessions at Peace Mennonite Church on Feb. 20 and 21, 2015.

The Lead sessions on Feb. 20 featured guest speaker Dan Unrau, pastor and Mennonite Central Committee consultant, speaking on “Addressing power and authority in the church: Seeing that no one gets hurt and the work gets done.”

What is the purpose of the church?

Pictured from left to right: members of Rainham Mennonite Church—Dave Dick, congregational chair Charlie Roth, Mary Makey and Mary Roth. (Photo courtesy of Susan Kennel Harrison)

When Rainham Mennonite Church, near Selkirk, Ont., was audited by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in the summer of 2014, the auditor wanted to see the congregation’s constitution. When it couldn’t find one, the church quickly developed a new one with four statements in the Purpose section of the document, two of which caught the CRA’s attention:

2. To receive and maintain a fund or funds, and to apply all or part of the principal and income therefrom, from time to time, to charitable organizations that are also registered charities under the Income Tax Act (Canada).

A positive space to speak out

It was a “magical” and “spirit-filled” Jan. 24, 2015, evening for many who attended a Wildwood Mennonite Church event, held to provide a positive space for members of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgender/queer (LGBTQ) community, family and friends to tell their stories and be vulnerable with each other. Some people felt safe to share publicly, even those who have had no connection to a church in many years. 

From Africa to Saskatchewan

The Asante Children’s Choir sings with feeling “He Knows my Name” during a recent performance at Eigenheim Mennonite Church.

Hellen shares “What Jesus means to me,” as part of the worship service led by the Asante Children’s Choir at Eigenheim Mennonite Church on Jan.18.

The Asante Children’s Choir brings a little bit of Africa with them as they perform during the Sunday morning worship hour at Eigenheim Mennonite Church recently.

With confidence this young member of Asante Children’s Choir drums as his female counterparts perform a traditional African dance.

Enthusiastic singing, energetic danc-ing and electrifying drumming set the tone as the Asante Children’s Choir worshipped African-style with Eigenheim Mennonite Church congregants, near Rosthern, Sask. on Jan. 18. Although not their typical Sunday fare, the congregation responded warmly to the choir’s music.

The 15 singers, ranging in age from 12 to 16, have been touring western Canada since last September, broadening their own horizons as well as those of their Canadian audiences.

‘It felt like a big deal . . . it was so powerful’

Craig Friesen and Matthew Wiens rang in 2015 by joining their hands and committing their lives to one another in front of friends and family at a New Year’s Eve wedding, the first same-sex wedding to ever be publicly officiated by Mennonite Church Canada pastors.

Wiens and Friesen, who attend Nutana Park Mennonite Church in Saskatoon, were married by their co-pastors Anita Retzlaff and Patrick Preheim, at Osler Mennonite Church, where Friesen is a member.

Buffalo shout, Mennonites discuss

MC Saskatchewan participants in the five-session discussion of Steve Heinrichs’s book Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry grapple with the complexities of indigenous/settler relations. Pictured from left to right: Craig Neufeld, Cheryl Woelk, Bernie Thiessen and Larry Epp.

They met in the library at Rosthern Mennonite Church, a good place for a book discussion group to meet. It wasn’t a typical book discussion group, but then they weren’t discussing a typical book.

The book they discussed was Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry, a collection of essays, poems and readings by both indige-nous and settler writers. Published by Herald Press, the book is edited by Steve Heinrichs, Mennonite Church Canada’s indigenous relations director.

RJC envisions a bigger, better school

Rosthern Junior College student council representatives Kelsey Dueck, left, Kylee Kosokowsky, Joseph Hachachena, Kelsi Siemens and Brandon Janzen hold up a $5,000 cheque to kick off the school’s five-year ‘Do more. Be more’ fundraising campaign.

“Do more. Be more.” These words sound a little like the mantra of a motivational speaker. They are, in fact, the name given to a new five-year strategic fundraising plan for Rosthern Junior College (RJC). The plan includes the ambitious goal of raising  $1.5 million to be allocated toward three clearly defined strategies:

CMU opens Marpeck Commons

An external view of the new Marpeck Commons at Canadian Mennonite University.

Librarian Vic Froese, left, Terry Schellenberg, Arlyn Friesen-Epp and Dave Bergen are pictured in the new library at Canadian Mennonite University’s Marpeck Commons.

A new pedestrian bridge links CMU’s north and south campuses.

For the past year-and-a-half, residents of Winnipeg have watched as Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) built a pedestrian bridge linking its north and south campuses over a busy thoroughfare. On Nov. 29, as CMU was preparing to open the doors for the public to view the new facility, the excitement was palpable.

Staff of Mennonite Church Canada and CMU eagerly and warmly welcomed visitors to the bright, spacious building that conveys a simple elegance and much careful thought in its design. Careful thought was also given to the name: Marpeck Commons.

MC Manitoba approves 2015 budget in principle

Peter Rempel, left, chair of the MC Manitoba board, addresses delegates at Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg on Nov. 6. Treasurer Tom Seals looks on.

Despite falling short of a quorum, delegates attending Mennonite Church Manitoba’s fall gathering on Nov. 6 gave the board strong affirmation for its 2015 proposed budget.

The budget as presented calls for the same amount—$645,000—from congregations as the 2014 budget.

“Our thinking behind that was that we have all the indications that our giving is levelling out, said Ken Warkentin, the area church’s executive director. “We can’t expect any more and we can’t do with any less.”

Equipped to listen, but not to agree

Jerry Buhler, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s area church minister, standing, and his wife Kara visit with John Bartel of North Star Mennonite Church in Drake at the Equipping Day event in Saskatoon on Oct. 25.

“Jesus, help us live in peace,” people sang at the outset of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s “Equipping to listen” event, expressing the sorrow—but also the hope—of a church deeply divided.

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